Louisiana’s governor says Feds violating nation’s education laws, sues

Charges similar to ones being made by Kentucky’s education commissioner

I wrote several days ago about claims from Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday that the US Department of Education (USED) is overstepping its bounds and violating laws by trying to dictate education policy to Kentucky.

It looks like Kentucky isn’t the only place where officials are getting riled. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal just sued the federal government over the same sorts of education issues!


I wonder if Commissioner Holliday will be subpoenaed to testify.

Response to Rob Mattheu’s post under “Lewis vs. Solomon: Does Kentucky need charter schools?”

Lewis and Solomon Picture for Debate Comments
We got a very extensive list of questions from reader Rob Mattheu, who writes the Louisville School Beat Blog, concerning our “Lewis vs. Solomon: Does Kentucky need charter schools?” online debate. Mattheu’s detailed questions deserved more space than a comment would allow, so I am turning this into a separate blog, addressed to Mr. Mattheu but open for all to read. Click the “Read more” link if you want to see this interesting discussion about school choice and our recent debate.

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Kentucky’s education commissioner honored for policy leadership

Kentucky’s Education Commissioner Terry Holliday was recently named the 2014 Policy Leader of the Year by the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE).

Certainly, examples like the commissioner’s recent actions in speaking out sharply about federal overreach into the states’ rights area of control over education show that while we at the Bluegrass Institute don’t always agree with him, Dr. Holliday has been far more outspoken and decisive than any recent predecessor as head of the Kentucky Department of Education.

Congratulations on this honor, commissioner.

Education commissioner opens season for public comment on Kentucky’s version of the Common Core State Standards

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards and the first to implement tests in math and reading that were aligned to those standards.

And, those standards have proved increasingly controversial.

So, it makes sense that the Kentucky Commissioner of Education has pushed up his original plan to revisit those standards by a year and just issued the “Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge” to gather recommendations for changes and improvement to the standards from educators and the public.

Such changes are badly needed, and on one hand I hope many people provide inputs.

But, I also have a serious question – can Kentucky really change those standards? Right now, what is called the Kentucky Core Academic Standards for math and reading are really just cut-and-paste adoptions of the Common Core State Standards. I’m not at all sure we can change them.

Consider this:

1) The US Department of Education has largely hijacked the standards and testing authority of the states with Race to the Top grants and No Child Left Behind waivers,

2) Even the Kentucky Commissioner of Education is now pointing to serious intrusions of the feds into the states’ rights area of education, and

3) The standards are copyrighted by two private Washington, DC organizations. Kentucky has no control over the copyright.

So, what guarantees do Kentuckians have that we can actually make such changes to someone else’s standards? Will the feds let us do this? Have we already mortgaged this state’s control over such education matters to the US Government?

I don’t think anyone in Kentucky really knows, right now, but there is certainly a fur fight going on between our commissioner of education and the US Department of Education. All by itself, that is a remarkable, and very chilling, situation.

Kentucky’s education commissioner: US Department of Education violating state and federal law with rejection of state’s request for more time to implement science standards

In a set of comments that sound like things we have been saying for years at the Bluegrass Institute, the Kentucky School Boards Association reports Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday is exploding about federal intrusion into the state’s management of its education program. The specific trigger, according to the school boards group, is that rough-handed action by the US Department of Education (USED) is “violating state and federal law in forcing Kentucky to rush its implementation of the Next-Generation science standards.”

The school boards news release continues:

“In his weekly Web blog Friday, Holliday confirmed that USED officials had rejected his agency’s request to delay measuring the science standards in the spring 2014 K-PREP exams – an action the commissioner said is illegal.”

Wow! Talk about punching the feds right in the eye! And, there is more to this exploding story.

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Bluegrass Beacon: Wright wrong about right-to-work

BluegrassBeaconLogoThe closer Kentucky moves toward a right-to-work policy, the more agitated opponents become.

But I’m hopeful that facts about what a right-to-work policy is, is not and how it’s working in the 24 states that already have it will trump false claims and fear mongering by those who seem woefully confused about the issue.

Steven Wright of Hodgenville based on his recent ideological missive published by the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise definitely is among those mistaken about what a right-to-work law would – and would not – do for Kentucky.

It’s evident from Wright’s letter that he was none too pleased about my recent column claiming Kentucky is up against the economic-development wall and will remain there without a right-to-work law.

0“It suggests that there is something wrong with our state because we protect the rights of workers to organize and the right to collective bargain,” Wright wrote about my stance.

He’s definitely confused.

All a right-to-work law does is ensure that individuals have the right to join, not join or leave a union without fear of losing their jobs. It interferes in no way with workers who want to join – and enjoy the full benefits – of a union.

House Bill 496, the right-to-work bill filed and voted on by the Kentucky House Labor and Industry Committee earlier this year, actually begins by ensuring employees’ freedom to organize.

“Employees may, free from restraint or coercion by the employers or their agents, associate collectively for self-organization and designate collectively representatives of their own choosing to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment to effectively promote their own rights and general welfare,” reads Section 1 of KRS 336.130.

It even goes on to protect the rights of employees “collectively and individually” to “strike, engage in peaceful picketing, and assemble collectively for peaceful purposes.”

Liberty-minded Kentuckians – including this columnist – would unequivocally oppose any proposal to take away individuals’ rights to organize, join, form or fund a labor union.

However, along with opposing any attempt to keep individual Kentuckians from joining and supporting a union, most of our fellow citizens also support allowing individual workers to forgo union membership if they don’t believe it’s in their own personal interest.

A new Google Consumer Surveys poll conducted in July and released by the Bluegrass Institute as part of National Employee Freedom Week confirmed strong support for a right-to-work policy in Kentucky; 80 percent of the 500 respondents answered in the affirmative to a single question: “Should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?”

The poll’s margin of error is less than 4 percent.

Cut through the noise of the irritants plus the fog of their emotion and you have strong, clear support for the kind of sound labor policy that will remove Kentucky’s name from the “No Call” lists of site-selection consultants and the manufacturers they advise.

I’m pretty sure that Wright, based on the tone and direction of his letter, certainly isn’t intending to help promote right-to-work for Kentucky. But he inadvertently does just that by pointing out that “right-to-work laws are in the states with the lowest taxes.”

Wow. Thank you, Steven Wright! That’s one of those positive, unintended consequences of a right-to-work law that we haven’t yet even addressed in this column.

Any honest columnist will admit they are always looking for new topics or different angles on frequently addressed issues. That could work here, too, with a headline something along the lines of: “Right-to-work brings lower taxes to the commonwealth.”

That’s more than a good column topic. It’s a good idea for Kentucky.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.


Comments on the Charter School Debate: US Department of Education knows charter schools are public schools

Lewis and Solomon Picture for Debate Comments
If you have not taken time to read our major charter school debate with UK professors Wayne Lewis and Martin Solomon, you owe it to yourself and Kentucky’s children to take some time to do so. The professors provide a good introduction into the issues of establishing charter schools in Kentucky from the viewpoint of both a strong proponent of charters and a sharp critic of these school choice options for parents.

Now that the professors have weighed in, I’ve been adding more to the discussion. Today, I want to deal with an incorrect comment repeatedly pushed by one of our debate members and which we hear far too often from the teachers’ unions and other opponents of charter schools. That incorrect assertion is that charter schools are not public schools.

The fact is that nothing could be further from the truth. Just because charters don’t fall in the “same old, same old,” union-dominated mold of traditional public schools does not mean they are not public schools.

While charters most definitely are different from traditional public schools, in the essential characteristics, charter schools are very much public schools. For example, they are ultimately subject to the same state regulatory bodies and their students must take state accountability tests. Children attend charter schools without paying fees, too, just like traditional public schools.

But, you don’t have to take my word for it. While I was putting together another blog on our debate, I noticed that even the US Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reports clearly recognize that charter schools are public, not private schools.

The table below for eight grade math is one of the tables I assembled from the Main NAEP Data Explorer Web tool in that earlier blog.

Notice the line for charter schools. The US Department of Education’s NAEP report clearly lists them in the “National Public” domain.

G8 Math

So, even the US Department of Education does not buy the notion that charter schools are somehow private. That incorrect notion might sound useful to teachers’ union spokespeople who believe charter schools represent a threat to the union monopoly lock on traditional public school policies, but it’s just not right. And, degrading the value of charter schools isn’t right for our kids, either.

Cast a vote that really counts!

TFBluegrass Institute president Jim Waters has advanced to the semifinals of Think Freely Media’s 2014 Great Communicators Tournament with his video about the Institute’s Intrastate Coal and Use Act. Watch it here.

Jim is the only Kentuckian in the semifinal round and needs our help to move on and win the $10,000 prize being awarded to the winner of this year’s Great Communicator contest.

Here’s how you can help: Since the winner of this contest will be determined by online voting, please watch the short video here (it’s less than 3 minutes) and then click “VOTE FOR THIS VIDEO” button just underneath the video. Also, the site makes it easy for you to share it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Many of you have heard Jim speak on the free-market principles and policies that are vitally important to all of us who care about the future of our country and commonwealth. Now, we have the opportunity to gain more national attention for the Bluegrass Institute and a movement to rein in the EPA’s regulation of Kentucky coal.

By voting for Jim’s video and passing it on to your network of liberty-loving Kentuckians and asking them to vote and pass it on, you could help the Bluegrass Institute get some great national attention at this year’s State Policy Network Annual Meeting in Denver, Col, in late September.

Since the finalists will be determined entirely by online voting results, would you consider voting for Jim’s video here? Voting will be open until midnight on Sept. 2. Voters are allowed to cast a vote each and every day between now and the conclusion of voting on Sept. 2 at midnight.

This is a great opportunity for the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s coal industry and our president, Jim Waters! Your vote could make a difference!

It’s a Free-Market Friday with BIPPS on the Joe Elliott Show on Louisville’s 970 WGTK-AM

Bluegrass Institute President Jim Waters joins talk show host Joe Elliott for a Free-Market Friday tomorrow at @ 10 a.m. (EDT) on Louisville’s 970 WGTK-AM.

Among other issues, Jim and Joe will discuss Kentucky’s latest ACT scores released this week, the institute’s recent Unbridled Learning report, public charter schools and the Intrastate Coal and Use Act. 

Listen live here. Then, if you like what you hear and you think it’s important for Kentucky, help keep the Bluegrass Institute in the winning column and on the airwaves by contributing here.

Ranking Kentucky’s ACT scores against other states

We always get questions about how Kentucky stacks up against other states on the ACT whenever new scores come out (the 2014 scores were released yesterday).

Unfortunately, several issues make it a little tricky to answer this request, so I explain later in this blog why I look at the performance of only white students, only in the 12 states where 100 percent ACT testing was conducted in 2014.

Here is a summary of Kentucky’s ACT Benchmark Score performance for white high school graduates in 2014:

• ENGLISH: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom among the 12 states that tested all graduates in 2014 and lost ground from its rank in 2013.
• MATHEMATICS: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom and made no relative improvement in ranking from 2013.
• READING: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom but did improve one slot from its performance in 2013.
• SCIENCE: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom and made no relative improvement from 2013.
• STUDENTS WHO MET BENCHMARK SCORES ACROSS ALL FOUR SUBJECTS: Kentucky ranks second from the bottom and made no relative improvement from 2013.

To learn more, including a discussion about why I limited my examination to only whites in certain states, just click the “Read more” link.

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